The stink of ex-Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. has dissipated, and Santa Clara County is focused on a fresh start for 2014.
“Scandal is no longer in the air,” Supervisor Ken Yeager said after Tuesday’s State of the County speech, delivered by recently sworn-in Board President Mike Wasserman. “We certainly spent most of last year changing and improving public outreach and creating much more transparency than there was before.”
Nearly every single expenditure policy has been revised since Shirakawa was found to have stolen taxpayer and campaign funds. He’s now in jail, and the Board has made a point of moving forward in a more transparent manner. In August, supervisors made their calendars public for the first time.
Wasserman’s address mainly focused on the county’s role as a safety net for the most vulnerable, while also highlighting the little-known services it provides for residents.
“When I was elected to the Board of Supervisors I did not have a full appreciation for the number of lives we touch daily,” Wasserman said, adding that his mother’s life was saved by county paramedics last summer when she collapsed in her home and was rushed to the hospital for emergency brain surgery.
“This was just one example of a 9-1-1 call, and a life saved by county employees,” he said.
The county answers 400,000 emergency calls a year. Valley Medical Center and affiliated clinics receive 840,000 patient visits. Last year, 4,000 babies were delivered and 55,000 people immunized by county medical.
“These stories are just a glimpse of what our county does daily,” he said.
More highlights from Tuesday’s address, which you can view in its entirety right here, include:
• Santa Clara County has a $4.2 billion annual budget and more than 16,000 employees.
• Most county services are paid for by state and federal money, while 75 percent of revenue comes with strings attached.
• Standard & Poor’s just raised the county’s credit rating to AAA, the highest possible.
• Despite that rating, the county expects a $25 million shortfall next fiscal year. “The good news is that this is a much smaller deficit than any year over the past decade,” Wasserman notes.
• Supervisors received 97 bids from community organizations asking for Measure A funding, of which $10 million remains untapped. (We will keep an eye on this.)
• About 1 million people visited the county’s 28 public parks last year.
• Residents check out 9.6 million items from county libraries.
• The Environmental Health Department inspected 9,650 restaurants.
• The Department of Weights and Measures verified 6,000 gas pumps for accuracy to make sure no one’s getting ripped off.
• The Sheriff’s Office makes more than 10,000 arrests a year, the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes 40,000 cases a year and the Probation Department supervises 18,000 people at a given time.
• The average homeless person costs about $60,000 each year in public services, while a housing solution costs about half that.
• The county will launch two supportive housing programs for young people aging out of the foster care system.
• The county gets 18 cents for every property tax dollar. The rest goes to the state and schools.
“And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what our county does for a population that is larger than 12 states and 94 countries,” Wasserman said.
The county keeps an archive of past state-of-the-county speeches.
Here’s a summary of last year’s address by then-Board President Yeager.